World View: Spain’s Offer to Take in Aquarius Migrants Rejected as Dangerous to Migrants

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This morning’s key headlines from

  • Spain’s offer to take in Aquarius migrants is rejected as dangerous to migrants
  • Italy cries victory, portending a growing EU migrant crisis this summer

Spain’s offer to take in Aquarius migrants is rejected as dangerous to migrants

 Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini (center) savors his victory
Italy’s new interior minister Matteo Salvini (center) savors his victory

On Monday, Spain’s new prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, offered to take in the 629 migrants on board the rescue vessel Aquarius, after both Italy and Malta refused to allow the vessel to dock in their ports.

The Aquarius, owned by the NGO SOS Méditerranée, operating under the direction of the Italian Coast Guard, picked up the 629 migrants in six different rescue operations off Libya’s coast on Sunday. The migrants include 123 children and seven pregnant women.

After rescuing the 629 migrants, the Aquarius expected to dock, as usual, at a port on the Italian island of Sicily, where they could make asylum requests. Instead, Matteo Salvini, interior minister in Italy’s new anti-immigrant coalition government, ordered that the Aquarius be refused permission to dock at an Italian port, and demanded that the ship dock at Malta, saying “The Good Lord put Malta closer to African shores than Sicily.”

However, Malta refused to allow the Aquarius to dock, saying that the migrants were from Libya and therefore Italy’s responsibility.

With the Aquarius running out of food and water, and with a number of migrants requiring medical attention, the ship was stranded in the Mediterranean Sea, about halfway between the islands of Malta and Sicily.

On Monday afternoon, the office of Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez issued this statement:

The Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, has given instructions for Spain to comply with its international commitments in matters of humanitarian crises, and has announced that a Spanish port will welcome the Aquarius, in which 600 people have been abandoned to their fate in the Mediterranean. … It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, to comply with our human rights obligations.

The offer was extended to dock in either Valencia or Barcelona. Valencia is about 1,300 km from the Aquarius’s current location, and so would require two or three days to reach that destination.

However, organizers of the rescue mission, including NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) are insisting that the Aquarius be permitted to dock in Italy immediately, for two reasons.

First, the conditions on the ship are becoming increasingly desperate, as it is overcrowded and there is a short of blankets, clean clothes, food, and water. A 2-3 day trip in potentially stormy weather would be dangerous to the migrants.

Second, the NGOs would like the ship to dock immediately so that the ship can continue to pick up the “migrants and refugees that leave Libya in boats every day.”

However, as of Monday evening, the Aquarius has received no further instructions and is still stranded in the same place as on Sunday evening. The Spain Report and Euro News and BBC

Italy cries victory, portending a growing EU migrant crisis this summer

The peak summer migrant season is beginning, which is a huge business where a lot of people are making a lot of money. Human traffickers charge migrants in Libya thousands of dollars each to make the trip to Europe. They fill each rubber dinghy with migrants to overcapacity and send it out into the Mediterranean Sea. There is no intention that the rubber dinghy reach Europe directly. The dinghy will run out of gas just a few miles out, and then a rescue boat like the Aquarius is expected to rescue the migrants. Sometimes they are rescued, and sometimes they drown. In some cases, it is believed that the human traffickers notify an NGO that a dinghy is coming, and then the NGO gets a kickback for rescuing the migrants.

In past years, Italy has begged the EU for help, as thousands of migrants pour into the country each day. There was supposed to be a plan to distribute migrants to all 28 EU member countries, but many countries refused to accept any migrants at all. In past years, Italy’s previous government had threatened to close all its ports to the migrant rescue ships, but they never did it.

So now Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini is taking a hardline stance, saying that he would not allow Italy to become “Europe’s refugee camp.” He is threatening to go through with the threat to close all its ports to migrant rescue ships. This risks precipitating a full-blown crisis with the EU.

The EU is still holding meeting on distributing migrants to other countries, but getting nowhere. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said,

If we are unable to come up with a common response to the migration challenges, the very foundations of the EU will be at stake. Action is really needed.

However, there seems little likelihood that anything can be accomplished. The migration problem has been the main issue that has resulted in the election of new “populist” candidates in Italy and elsewhere. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the increased xenophobia and nationalism resulting from the migration issue is extremely dangerous and destabilizing for the entire European Union. Reuters and Politico (EU) and Guardian (London) and Daily Express (London)

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Italy, Matteo Salvini, Sicily, SOS Méditerranée, Aquarius, Libya, Malta, Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders, MSF, Spain, Pedro Sánchez, Germany, Angela Merkel
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